Director: José Padilha
Writer: Gregory Burke
Starring: Rosamund Pike, Daniel Brühl, Eddie Marsan
Release Date: 11th May
Entebbe is a historical thriller based on the true story of the 1976 hijacking of a flight from Israel by two Palestinians and two Germans. The hijackers brought the plane and hostages to Entebbe International Airport in Uganda.
The demands were the release of 53 pro-Palestinian militants and $5 million. After much deliberation over the ethics of negotiating with “terrorists,” Israel eventually sent in the Israeli Defence Forces (IDF) to rescue the hostages.
While not the first film about this incident, Entebbe is different for two reasons. Firstly, many details of the rescue operation have only become public knowledge very recently. Secondly, and more importantly, the story is told in a more morally ambiguous way.
The two most central characters are German, both Red Army Faction alumni (also known as the Baader-Meinhof Group), whereas the Israeli soldiers get comparatively little screen time and no agency. The focus on the Germans, instead of the Israelis makes sense, but it’s hard to shake the feeling that there’s an element of whitewashing in focusing on the Germans instead of the Palestinians. After all, it’s their fight.
The mix of Germans claiming Israel to be fascist in its treatment of the Palestinian people, while holding Israelis hostage, is an irony not lost on this film.
The implied reasoning is that fighting someone else’s fight makes them interesting. In a flashback scene to Palestinian training camp, the Germans are forced to justify their allegiance. Palestinian characters present horrific tales of losing their families during IDF excursions into their villages, whereas the Germans are there by choice.
The mix of Germans claiming Israel to be fascist in its treatment of the Palestinian people, while holding Israelis hostage, is an irony not lost on this film. In one scene, one of the Germans takes an elderly Israeli hostage aside, only to notice an Auschwitz identification tattoo on her wrist.
All the technical aspects of Entebbe are executed well. The actors portray their characters as empathetic and flawed, with the exception of Nonso Anozie. Anozie, is excellent in the role of the indisputably unhinged and terrifying Idi Amin.
The action scenes are played in conjunction with a powerful dance by the Batsheva Dance Company. Surprisingly, this amplifies the intensity of already tense scenes.
In a nutshell: Entebbe is a well-made thriller that’s more thoughtful politically than most films in its genre.